Kristi Whitley

Healthy Living


GERD- Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux-Disease, aka heartburn affects about half of us. Some people say it is not caused by what you are eating instead it is what's eating you. In our stress-soaked environment there doesn't seem to be much we can do about what is eating us. We can, however, control what we eat. Our food environment is littered with reflux-producing elements. Our emphasis on grains, especially wheat, high-fat foods from restaurants and drive-thrus, meats, and dairy all increase reflux disease.

The best life-long remedy for GERD or gastro-esophageal-reflux-disease is a whole-foods-plant-based diet. That means a breakfast of a small amount of old fashioned oats (1/3-1/2 cup) cooked in water or plant milk, 1/4 cup of walnuts or almonds, 1/2 cup of blueberries (or other berries) is best. Lunch should be a large salad with no tomatoes (they can aggravate reflux), including dark greens like spring mix, romaine, arugula, spinach, and kale, with shredded carrots, red or yellow peppers, chopped broccoli or broccoli slaw, shredded raw beets, and maybe green or red onion. The dressing should be low-fat, preferably a vinaigrette (recipe here). Add a dollop of hummus or sprinkle on some canned chickpeas for added satiety. Dinner could be a medium-sized baked potato with mashed avocado, salt and pepper, with a large serving of roasted veggies such as zucchini, yellow squash, onions, carrots, brussels sprouts, green beans, turnips, etc. Get more whole-food-plant-based recipes at

Here is a list of foods that can aggravate acid reflux:

  • Coffee, tea-caffeine weakens the lower esophageal sphincter allowing acid to flow up into the tender esophagus causing the burn. Switch to decaf today!
  • Orange and grapefruit-these two citrus foods/beverages increase the burn. Skip them altogether.
  • Peppermint-like caffeine weakens the LES. Avoid anything containing peppermint including a small after-dinner chocolate mint. 
  • Tomatoes-this acidic fruit/vegetable increases the burn. Skip it.
  • Chocolate-same as caffeine and peppermint, skip it, especially after a meal. 
  • Alcohol-weakens the LES and produces more stomach acid. OUCH!
  • Meat and Dairy-these heavy foods are slow to digest increasing acidity and increasing the time they physically push the stomach and its contents toward the LES. After the esophagus is healed 2-3oz of broiled fish or white meat chicken may be added back in. Dairy should be completely eliminated as it produces excess acid and causes many many problems. We are not designed to drink the milk intended for baby cows. 

Here is advice from

Melatonin: Considerable research validates the benefits of melatonin in GERD. Melatonin is best known as a sleep aid and circadian rhythm regulator. It is manufactured by the pineal gland, located deep within the brain.

But a little known fact is that the gastrointestinal tract contains up to 400 times more melatonin than is secreted by the pineal gland. Research demonstrates that melatonin has the ability to suppress excess acid production; it also shields the GI lining from the destructive effects of free radicals caused by stress, toxic agents, or ulcer-causing drugs like NSAIDs.

A recent study showed that melatonin outperformed Zantac and boosted the effectiveness of Prilosec in alleviating symptoms and preventing tissue damage in patients with GERD.

The researchers summarized: “From the results of our study, it can be concluded that melatonin could be used in the treatment of GERD either alone or in combination with omeprazole. The combination therapy of both melatonin and omeprazole is preferable as melatonin accelerates the healing effect of omeprazole and therefore shortens the duration of treatment and minimizes its side effects.”

The suggested dose of melatonin for GERD is 3-6 mg at bedtime.

Aloe: Another traditional remedy for gastrointestinal ailments, aloe is most familiar as a home remedy for burns. Hence, its application to esophageal inflammation. For aloe to work best, it’s preferable to use the gel form, in generous amounts, away from food. I generally suggest ¼ cup of a purified aloe gel product like Lily of the Desert 3 or 4 times daily away from meals, on arising, or at bedtime.

It’s important to source a product that has minimal sugar, flavoring ingredients, or harmful additives, and that has reduced content of aloin which might have laxative or irritant effects on the GI tract.

In a recent study, aloe syrup was found to be comparable to Zantac and Prilosec in relieving symptoms of GERD, and was well-tolerated.

Probiotics: No formal studies have been done on administering probiotics for GERD, but it stands to reason that easing dysbiosis might relieve out-of-control bacterial proliferation, which can lead to upper intestinal gas and upward reflux of stomach contents.

Advice from

GERD Natural Remedies: Supplements & Essential Oils:

  • Green superfood mix. Helps to detox the body and supply nutrients like fiber and magnesium.
  • Slippery elm (tea or capsules). Studies show slippery elm may help heal many different digestive complaints by soothing the lining of the GI tract. (9)
  • Vitamin C. Supports strong immunity and acts like an antioxidant.
  • L-glutamine. Studies suggest this amino acid is helpful for regulating acid production, and many find it soothes various forms of indigestion. I recommend taking five grams of glutamine powder twice per day with meals.
  • Aloe vera. Soothes and lubricates the digestive system.
  • Licorice root (also called DGL). May help form a protective coating that limits damage to the stomach and esophagus. (10)
  • Probiotics. Supplies healthy bacteria that aid in healing the digestive and immune systems.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Fights inflammation, yet is lacking in many people’s diet.
  • Ginger and Turmeric. Both are anti-inflammatory herbs used to treat many digestive symptoms tied to inflammation.
  • Digestive enzymes. These can help you fully digest foods, better absorb nutrients and prevent acid buildup. Try taking one or two capsules of a high-quality digestive enzyme at the start of each meal until symptoms dissipate.
  • HCL with pepsin. Some find this useful for keeping uncomfortable symptoms at bay. Try taking one 650-milligram pill prior to each meal. (11)
  • Fiber supplements like psyllium husk. If you have trouble going to the bathroom or other digestive issues, more fiber may help relieve pressure.
  • Hydrochloric acid pills. One of the most popular ways to treat acid reflux and GERD is to regulate acid production through use of hydrochloric acid. However this will depend on what’s causing your symptoms (low versus high acid production, inflammation, etc.). Track your symptoms or consider asking your doctor for their advice.
  • Essential Oils. Research shows juniper berry essential oil contains over 87 different active constituent compounds. These compounds include strong antioxidants, antibacterials and antifungals that can help heal the digestive system. Other beneficial oils  for digestion include ginger, peppermint and fennel oil. First dilute these oils with a carrier oil like coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio before applying them directly to your abdomen and chest. Other ways to use them include inhaling or diffusing oils in your home.